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Still divided over demolition cost

By Staff | Sep 18, 2015

The city of Wells is upset. Both its citizens and its council. With two big demolition projects done within the past six months, both the Frank Brothers Elevator and the old United South Central school demolition projects are coming back to haunt the town and its council.

Recently, the Faribault County Board of Commissioners has decided to delay reimbursement to the city of Wells after they found that the cost of the Frank Brothers demolition was almost double as to what was estimated.

“The county’s position is they considered the safety issue of the project anything above ground, which is why it was demolished in the first place,” said Mayor Ron Gaines in the Wells City Council meeting last Monday evening.

“I met with a few of the commissioners to talk about the demolition. They feel they should be done paying for everything. We also removed the concrete foundation, and that is the part they are refusing to pay.”

Gaines mentioned the cost of the demolition was $49,133. The commissioners told Gaines they are refusing to pay anything for underground work.

Gaines stated the commissioners mentioned to him during their conversation they are refusing to pay $11,800, which the commissioners stated was the cost of the concrete foundation.

“The remaining balance, they would split with us,” stated Gaines.

“Did they say how they came up with that number? That is not in any of the estimates,” interjected Robin Leslie, city administrator.

Gaines stated there were a few items from the bill that the commissioners felt were for the underground demolition.

“There is nothing in the bill that says $11,800. That is not accurate. There is no way they could come to a fair number. I am bothered by this whole thing. They are not holding to our original agreement,” stated Leslie.

According to Leslie, the original agreement was to split the cost of the demolition and the city would take responsibility for the property and also manage the project.

“I have worked on this project for almost a year and a half,” said Leslie. “You can imagine the city pay involved in that. We also did all of the environmental testing and paid for that. We did this work on property that was not ours. We were also able to decrease the cost of the project because it was so over what the estimate was.”

Leslie stated she was bothered by the idea of the commissioners now putting a policy in place that was not previously available before their agreement to help the city of Wells with the Frank Brothers demolition project.

“There was no above-ground cost versus underground cost policy when we agreed to this,” stated Leslie.

“At this point,” said Gaines, “this is the way the commissioners would like it: the total bid was $49,133. They’re taking off the first $11,800, which leaves $37,333. That, they will divide into two and split the cost with the city, which comes to $18,666.50. The county said they will offer $18,750, which is $5,000 more than the original offer.”

“We budgeted a certain number for this. If we pay the overages, that will go over our budget,” said Leslie. “The city of Wells is a part of Faribault County so now our taxpayers will be paying for the city’s portion of this, and the county’s portion of this. I don’t think it’s fair.”

After a back-and-forth of ideas and concepts of repayment from the council, they ultimately decided to inform the commissioners before their meeting to request to go back to the original invoice of $24,566 and let the commissioners decide from there.

Brenda Weber, a citizen of Wells who lives near the old USC school demolition site aired her concerns about unkept promises to the citizens regarding the demolition project at the beginning of last Monday’s meeting.

“We have been lied to,” says Weber.?”We were told a number of things about the demolition that are not true.”

Weber’s first concern was the amount of crushing that has been done on the site. Originally, the project called for a mere five days of crushing but that has turned into almost three weeks.

City administrator Robin Leslie stated that the reason the crushing has been extended was due to not only weather, but the crushing would cease during times of service for St. Casimir and the funeral home. Leslie also shared that what was going on at the site had not been shared with City Council.

“A lot of information has changed between the contractor and USC that we don’t really know about,” said Leslie. “It’s not our project, it’s the school’s. We are just the middle man who approved the permit for crushing.”

Leslie also added that the City Council was able to terminate the project at any time. According to Leslie, the original agreement was to only crush clean aggregate, mostly concrete, but the contractors have now been crushing all materials on site, rather than moving the materials to another location.

The other concern Weber brought to the attention of the council was the amount of dust emitted by the project.

“We were told there would be dust, but it would be controlled. We can’t even open our windows now because of all of the dust,” said Weber. “And now that they’re crushing everything and not just concrete, who knows what is in that dust. Asbestos? Lead paint particles? And we have to inhale that?”

Weber also stated that the crew at the old school site were putting dirty aggregate (a mix of wood, plaster, and other materials) back into the ground to fill the hole.

“They can’t do that. I called the MPCA about it and I don’t think they’re very happy.”

Leslie told Weber that the MPCA was on the site and the demolition team would have to remove a good amount of rubble from the ground.

“We were told they would use clean aggregate to lay a base in the hole, and that is what we understood,” said Leslie, with the council agreeing with her.

“I’m disappointed too,” said council member John Herman, “but you’re preaching to the wrong choir. We tried to do them a favor to keep their costs considerably low, and it seems that is nipping us in the bud.”

“It is in the school’s best interest to get this taken care of properly with their project manager,” said Leslie.

The council then voted unanimously to terminate the standing permit for crushing on Friday, Sept. 18 whether crushing was complete or not.

“We have given that project more than enough time to finish the crushing,” said councilwoman Whitney Harig.